Letter to Lucy (1803–1808)

Pennsylvanian earth resembles us—
red flesh veiny with water, perfused
with motion & stirred by all the quirky Energies
of life, ours
or a windy marsh with bitterns and ducks—that’s
a business fit for a man like myself, strong & quick
as you can find, Lucy, and not to be found much longer
in the pestilent port of New York
as apprentice-clerk in a commercial house.
I did not realize how dearly I would detest it,
seventy-five thousand persons calling one place
home! & me a merchant! My life has not subdued itself
to Indigo & wine. Thoughts of thee
were like the silver thread I tied last spring
around the phoebe’s leg, knotted loose
to cause no injury but to hold
forever. & soon I will return from a year
of scribbling bad english in a dim room
to show your father my worth. My sum would be
no greater for any more of that. One year given him,
Love, I offer you the rest. 

“Letter to Lucy” from Commonwealth of Wings: An Ornithological Biography Based on the Life of John James Audubon © 1991 by Pamela Alexander. Published by Wesleyan University Press. Used with permission.